Rock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance
Green Frog Productions
Length: 63 minutes
Time Period: 1970’s
Locations: Chicago area, Bureau Jct. and more.
Source: Roger M. Koenig
The Rock Island passenger trains of the 1970’s are the story. American railroad passenger service had peaked during the 1950’s. Air travel, automobiles and the interstate highway system, had changed the way we traveled. Consolidation to Amtrak was the national solution to ever declining ridership on the rails.
Rock Island chose to continue operating their passenger trains. Named trains such as The Quad Cities Rocket, still served from Chicago LaSalle Street Station. That structure’s deterioration had mirrored the state of the railroad. Both well past their prime.
The Peorian was down to 2 cars, just prior to discontinuance.
Roger Koenig filmed much of the Rock Island. Using Super 8mm color, with sound he recorded the final years of those trains. The collection of his films is focused on those last Rockets and local Rock commuter service in Chicago area. Metra takes over the locals.
Quad Cities Rocket in 1978.
These recent Green Frog releases offer on/off narration. Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Chapter search function that allows easy access to favorite scenes. It will play Widescreen. Nice features to have on this DVD. Green Frog has it in a sturdy, plastic case.
Image and these original films are problematic, on this release. Many variations in lighting within individual scenes. Other times the camera jerks around. As far as riding some passenger trains, the rough track is the culprit. Pacing scenes vary. Other shots where the composition is lacking. Overall, a noticeable percentage has camera or film issues. Looks like most of the Koenig’s best films have already appeared, in earlier volumes.
The audio is lively. The natural sound was recorded via camera microphone.
Peter Youngblood narrates a well written script. Informative concerning the happenings on the Rock Island at the time. A few times he erroneously identifies the 1920 era coaches as gray ones. Actually, they were dark green. Otherwise, the locations, trains and years are looked after consistently. The extra information about the railroad maintains interest. The actual trains do get somewhat repetitive. Such is the case, with passenger based programs.
The first third of this show is at LaSalle Street Station. Many commuter moves behind a plethora of old and recent equipment. For those who never saw this in the era, quite a treat.
A rolling museum. The E7/ E8 locomotives with a consist of 1930’s era passenger cars on a daily commuter train in 1977. Plenty of variety at LaSalle Station. Best chapter is here.
Contrast that with two new F40 engines pulling modern double deckers on the same day.
The Bicentennial E8 leads The Quad Cities Rocket.
Bureau Jct. is the alternate main location. The openness of the country area allows better photography of the trains.
This cameraman did get out in all kinds of weather. Hardy Chicagoans will often brave below zero temperatures vs. staying indoors for months, waiting for a nice day. Look at all of the frozen scenes. Many move to warmer climates!
Freight trains make a few cameo appearances. This is a passenger train show.
Rock Island: The Rockets Defy Discontinuance. The program does exactly as advertised. See the last couple of years for Rock Island passenger service. Actual film collection is a step down from previous volumes. Looks like an assortment of outtakes. However, the professional production elevates the overall show. Good for what it is. Just a little rougher to watch. Rock fans should enjoy this. Others will find a good, if somewhat flawed show.
Rating: 3 Stars